Living La Vida Lockdown -The Burnedthumb Ring
I expect a lot of us have made random purchases during the lockdown. I know one family who bought a tap floor for dance practice, and a lot of people who got seriously obsessed with Animal Crossing. Then there are customised facemasks and wish-listed box sets, plus all the things we bought to help out the small independent producers or because supermarkets couldn’t supply our usual stuff – I probably won’t go back to supermarket bread flour, or big brand soap and shampoo even when this is over. My purchase, which I would never have bought without the weirdness we are living in, is the Burnedthumb ring.
If you’ve been around since I started this blog, you’ll know how important the legend of the salmon of wisdom, and how Fionn mac Cumhaill burned his thumb cooking it, and accidentally became able to understand the languages of all living beings, is to my poetry. This poem is from The Territory of Rain, published in 2015
Land speaks to the seed
of rock and sand and water
in the language of rush and heather,
deep-rooted trees and scavenging gorse.
Land speaks to the builders of nests
of wind and rain in the scour of river banks,
the burn’s swift rush of water in the creeks
the deep moss-cushions, the sway
of tall firs and the lie of wind blows.
Land speaks to the crawlers
of frost and sun, soft going and dry,
in the bleached grass, and cracked seed-case,
the rise of small flies to the swallow’s beak.
Land speaks to the trees
of growth and blossom and failing
in the depth of pine needles on the forest floor
the decay of last year’s leaves, and the green dust
of new seedlings on the wet mulch.
Land speaks to the buzzard
of running voles, and rabbits nibbling
the soft stems of clover and primrose flowers.
Land speaks to the bat
in lengthening days, warm nights
of insects swarming, circling over the grass.
Land speaks of summer and winter
in the language of warbler and waxwing,
in rose and ivy flower, mist and lightning,
tree-rings, lichens and weathering stone.
and the central image of The Wren in the Ash Tree is the ‘web of speaking beings’ that is the earth and everything in it. I have been revisting it as I write the big scary poems that I need to form the heart of the next collection, and when I browsed Instagram (at a particularly low point!) and found this ring, with its shape inspired by the tail fin of a salmon, I frankly couldn’t resist it. And then, in a moment of pure serendipity, I discovered the concept of Deep Mapping in a soon to be published pamphlet by Rebecca Sharp and Simon Whetham (watch this space), which has brought so much thinking into focus, and has set me back on the right track.
Thank goodness for random purchases!